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android – java – WeakReferences with an ArrayList?

Posted by: admin May 14, 2020 Leave a comment


I know that with a WeakReference, if I make a WeakReference to something that unless there’s a direct reference to it that it will be Garbage Collected with the next GC cycle. My question becomes, what if I make an ArrayList of WeakReferences?

For example:

ArrayList<WeakReference<String>> exArrayList;
exArrayList = new ArrayList<WeakReference<String>>();
exArrayList.add(new WeakReference<String>("Hello"));

I can now access the data with exArrayList.get(0).get().

My question becomes: This is WeakReference data, will the data located at exArrayList.get(0) be GC’d with the next GC cycle? (even IF I don’t make another direct reference to it) or will this particular reference stick around until the arraylist is emptied? (eg: exArrayList.clear();).

If this is a duplicate I haven’t found it with my keywords in google.

How to&Answers:
  1. exArrayList.add(new WeakReference<String>("Hello")); is a bad example because String literals are never GC-ed

  2. if it were e.g. exArrayList.add(new WeakReference<Object>(new Object())); then after a GC the object would be GC-ed, but exArrayList.get(0) would still return WeakReference, though exArrayList.get(0).get() would return null


The data at exArrayList.get(0) is the WeakReference. It is not by itself a weak reference, so it will not be collected…

BUT the object referenced by exArrayList.get(0) is weakly referenced, so it might be GCed at any time (of course, that requires that there are no strong references to that object).


data.get(0) won’t become null, but data.get(0).get() might become.

In other words, the list does not references the weak referenced object but the weak reference itself.


This is a bad idea as the other posters explained above (reference objects not freed). Use a WeakHashMap with the objects as keys and some dummy values (“” or Boolean.TRUE or similar).